Nikon 105mm AF-D Micro Lens Review

September 7, 2009

The Nikon 105 AF-D Micro lens is one of my oldest lenses and I purchased it when I started photography and was shooting transparency film. I use it as a general purpose telephoto lens, but more frequently, it is on my camera because it is a macro lens for close-up photography. Note that Nikon calls all of its macro lenses micro-Nikkors (I have no idea why they use the term “micro”).

The lens achieves to 1:1 magnification without any extension tubes. What this means is that if the object is 10mm in length, it will appear 10mm long on the film frame or sensor. Most lenses cannot achieve this magnification unaided, for example, my general purpose wide-angle to telephoto zoom can only reach a ratio of about 1:4.

Physically, the lens is about 3 inches in diameter and 4 inches long. It weighs 1.2 lbs and uses a 52mm filter thread. The metal lens hood clips on to the front of the lens and can be reversed for compact storage. Figure 1 shows the lens mounted on a Nikon D700 camera.

The lens was introduced in 1993 and was later replaced with the 105mm AF-s VR micro-Nikkor lens in 2006.

 Nikon 105mm f/2.8 micro AF-D lens mounted on a D700 camera.

Figure 1. Nikon 105mm f/2.8 micro AF-D lens mounted on a D700 camera.

Sharpness

To evaluate the sharpness of the lens, I selected an architectural column of Stanford University’s Quad (Figure 2) as a test subject and took photos at varying aperture. I used a Nikon D700 camera, tripod, and remote release. The camera was mounted with a RRS L-plate in the vertical orientation and the camera was leveled with a hotshoe bubble level.

Figure 3 shows pixel level detail from f/2.8 to f/5.6 from various crops across the frame. At f/2.8 the image is slightly soft in the extreme corner but otherwise the picture is very good. By f/5.6 even the corners are sharp. Figure 4 shows the same crops except at f/8 and f/11.

Figure 2. Picture of a column taken at Stanford University. Red squares indicate 100% crops shown in Figure 3 and 4.

Figure 2. Picture of a column taken at Stanford University. Red squares indicate 100% crops shown in Figure 3 and 4.

f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6
center
upper left
left corner
Figure 3. Performance at f/2.8 to f/5.6: pixel level detail from crops shown at 100% magnification.

f/8 f/11
center  
upper left  
left corner  
Figure 4. Performance at f/8 and f/11: pixel level detail from crops shown at 100% magnification.

Sample Images

Although this 105mm AF-D makes a great general purpose lens, the real reason to get this lens is for macro shooting. Figure 5 shows some example close-up shots that I have taken with this lens. Note that in macro shooting I am usually shooting stopped down to get enough depth of field.

In macro shooting, corner performance is a non-issue. As most subjects will not fall into a flat plane, much of the periphery of the subject will be naturally out of focus.

Zinnia Elegans, f/8, 1/10s
Purple Iris, f/14, 1/10s
Dill, f/7.1, 1/180s

Vignetting

Even wide open, vignetting is mild on this lens. Figure 5a shows the lens at f/2.8 and Figure 5b shows a version corrected by ACR 4.4.

Worst case vignetting at f/2.8.

Figure 5a. Worst case vignetting at f/2.8.

Vignetting corrected by ACR (amount +31).

Figure 5b. Vignetting corrected by ACR (amount +31).

Other Comments

  • With a 50mm and 24mm lens, this lens makes a nice travel kit.
  • The front lens element is deeply recessed when shooting at non-macro distances. In such situations I often do not bother to use a lens hood.
  • There is a limiter switch on the lens so set AF to track only near or far objects. Generally, I do not use this since AF is only problem at macro distances and for that I use manual focussing.
  • The lens uses Nikon’s older autofocus system which is based on a mechanical linkage. The focus speed is quite reasonable although not as quiet as an AF-S lens.
  • When doing macro photography with flash, I often set the focus ring to provide a fixed magnification. I then move the camera body until the subject pops into focus. At that time I trip the shutter and flash.
  • At 1:1 magnification there is about 5 inches of working space between the front of the lens and the subject.

Conclusions

I don’t think it gets any better than this. Even though this is an older and discontinued lens my version is sharp across the entire frame even wide open at f/2.8. The lack of AF-S and VR is a complete non-issue as I do not use these features in macro shooting.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

daph May 6, 2010 at 9:22 am

I own aNikon 105mm AF-D Micro Lens. What hood does this lens take?? Thanks!!!

Stephen May 6, 2010 at 11:17 pm

The 105 micro AF-D uses a metal snap on hood (HS-7).

valentin March 8, 2012 at 5:50 am

thanks for your review on the d700!

I use the old 105mm on my d700 as well and i’m very satisfied. Its so sharp that only the MP amount of the d700 is the limit in enlarging photos..

Martin Moreno December 27, 2012 at 9:18 am

hello stephen, very good comments, please could you scan the user manual? I lost mine and i need it for my files my e-mail is martinmoreno1950@gmail.com
Thank you for helping me. A very happy new year for you and your family.

Martin

Stephen January 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Martin — unfortunately I don’t have my manual either. However, you may be able to find what you are looking for on the Nikon site where they have PDFs of the manuals. They don’t have this specific model but depending on the information you are looking for, may be contained in the user manuals for other micro lenses.

Gordon A. Gebert June 14, 2013 at 1:53 am

I just purchased an AF-D 105 micro used from one of the large camera houses. It appears to be in perfect shape and works brilliantly on my D200 but on my d700 (for which I bought the lens) the aperture control on the camera does not control the lens. However, the aperture indication on the info screen does show aperture change when the lens ring is used. I notice a ‘tab’ just above the f4 mark and am wondering what this does? Is it related to my problem, perhaps?

Thank you in advance…

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